Blogging Through the Sweet Sixteen (Day Two)

Blogging Through the Sweet Sixteen (Day Two)
Mar 28, 2008, 06:45 pm
Four more games are on tap tonight for the second portion of the Sweet 16. Hopefully they will be more interesting than last night’s contests…The Houston venue, featuring Stanford-Texas and Michigan State-Memphis seems to be where most of the scouts have congregated tonight, and will also hold most of our interest. Wisconsin-Davidson and Kansas-Villanova will also get long hard looks, especially after the game if there are any really interesting standouts.

6:45- The Wisconsin-Davidson is still about 25 minutes away. It will be very interesting to see how Wisconsin decides to guard Stephen Curry. Will they try to defend him straight up? Will they send extra help when he catches the ball or even try to play zone? Will they trap him on pick and rolls? Maybe throw some junk defense at him, like a box and one? We’ll find out soon enough…

7:20- We don’t see any type of special defense from Wisconsin as of yet to try and slow down Stephen Curry. He’s being face-guarded by Michael Flowers, but as of now it’s a straight up man to man. Curry hit one 3-pointer already, and missed two other shots, but did come up with a pair of steals in the early going to get his team some extra possessions. It’s a slow-paced game as expected. Davidson is up 7-5 four minutes in.

7:34- Stephen Curry looks very calm and poised finding shots for himself, which is what you would expect considering how much of a cold-blooded killer he is. He looked terrific coming off a screen and knocking down his typical high-arching shot, and also found some success pulling up off the dribble from mid-range. He gives you a false sense of security by seeming passive for long stretches, and then moving off the ball brilliantly and finding a glimmer of daylight to get his shot off. He is 4/7 for 11 points 6 minutes in, which is a much better start than last week against Georgetown.

7:40- We’ve switched over to the Texas-Stanford game, where the Cardinal is pounding the ball inside to Brook Lopez, predictably, and Robin Lopez quite a bit, which is somewhat of a surprise. They aren’t really hitting their shots, though, going a combined 2-7 so far. Texas is figuring out pretty early that they aren’t going to get too far trying to slash to the basket in the half-court, since the Lopez twins are completely locking down the paint early on. They are finding some success shooting from mid and long-range, though, as well as getting up the floor in transition. The Lopez’s will have to do a better job getting out and guarding Damion James and Connor Atchley on the perimeter, which won’t be easy.

8:07- While Texas’ offense is nothing to write home about, Stanford looks even worse—shooting 8-27 from the field so far. Brook Lopez is contributing with 11 points and 5 rebounds on 4-9 shooting, but besides him it’s been a complete brick-fest. D.J. Augustin is doing a great job of moving the ball around the perimeter unselfishly, and is also taking responsibility himself driving inside or pulling up from behind the arc—he’s 3-6 from the field and has 4 assists with 1 turnover with four minutes to go in the first half. Texas is up 30-22.

8:20-It’s half-time, and Stanford is really struggling on both ends of the floor. It doesn’t look like they’ve faced a point guard of D.J. Augustin’s quality this season—they just look too slow and mechanical to react to his unpredictable drives and pull-ups, as well as his flair for finding the open man. They’ve given up 43 points already, which is a season-high for them. Augustin is having what might be his signature performance as far as his draft stock is concerned—he has 12 points and 5 assists on 5-9 shooting, with just one turnover. Brook Lopez has been keeping Stanford in the game with his scoring in the paint and from mid-range—he has 15 points and 8 rebounds so far. This game is far from over, but Texas is up 9 with 20 minutes to go.

8:30- Some bad moments for Wisconsin here against Davidson. They are struggling to hit shots on the perimeter, and look a lot more frustrated/impatient about the mistakes they are making than their mid-major counterparts. Davidson is up by 6 points with 16 minutes to go. Wisconsin is sending some extra attention in Curry’s direction here in the second half, doubling him off screens, which has opened up opportunity for Davidson’s other players, particularly for Jason Richards to find the open man cutting to the rim. Richards has shown outstanding court vision and poise all game long—he has 7 assists already to go along with 8 points. Stephen Curry is getting some open looks from time to time, but his shot isn’t falling at a great rate. He is just 5-14 on the night thus far, for 14 points. He doesn’t seem fazed though.

8:45- Stanford’s anemic guard play has been their Achilles heel all season long, and it’s really catching up to them tonight. They aren’t quick enough to defend Texas on the perimeter, and are making extremely poor decisions on the other end of the floor, being unable to buy a bucket from beyond the arc. Texas’ ability to bring their big man out to beyond the arc and force Stanford to guard them has opened up all kinds of passing angles for cuts to the basket and such, and they continue to exploit these situations perfectly all game long. They are up 50-44 with 16 minutes to go.

In the other game, it seems like Stephen Curry is on fire once again. At last glance he had scored 9 points off three straight shots since our last update. Davidson is up by 12 with 11 minutes to go. He hit a step-back three close to NBA range off a crossover with the shot clock winding down, had a nice shot fake three in transition, and had a crazy reverse off the glass after a 360 spin that even had LeBron James in the crowd impressed. Is this kid amazing or what?

9:00- Texas’ offense has slowed down a bit, but they continue to do a solid job defensively to keep Stanford at bay. The Cardinal guards continue to disappoint here, missing shots and being unable to do anything offensively despite the fact that Texas’ entire defense is focused on stopping Brook Lopez. They are sometimes doubling him even before the post-entry pass is made, which is unprecedented considering how much it exposes the rest of the floor. In spite of that, Texas’ lead remains just 3 points, with 12 minutes to go.

9:05- Texas for some reason seems content running the shot-clock down, much like they did against Miami, despite being up only 7. They continue to do a great job on Brook Lopez, sending waves of defenders at him every time he touches the ball, and even before as mentioned. This is the strategy every team in America should have used against Stanford…since none of their other players can score seemingly. Brook Lopez looks frustrated, which he should be considering how little help he’s getting. The rest of his team is 10-33 on the night, or 30%...

Stephen Curry has 31 points and Davidson is up by 18 with under 4 minutes to go. He started the game 5-14, but was 6-8 in the stretch that buried Wisconsin. He has 20 points in the second half, while Wisconsin has just 15. Incredible.

9:15- Stanford is not only being outplayed, they are being outsmarted and outhustled. Texas is grabbing offensive rebounds, hustling all over the court, and working for each other offensively. D.J. Augustin continues to play with veteran poise, preferring to show his terrific mid-range game with pull-up jumpers off the dribble rather than challenge the twin towers inside, and displaying his terrific passing and unselfishness off the pick and roll. Texas is on a 16-2 run and is up 68-53 with 5 minutes to go.

9:20- Texas held Stanford without a field goal for 9 minutes here, and D.J. Augustin just had two fantastic finishes off the glass to pretty much end this game. This will be the game that goes down as locks him into the lottery I believe, especially when you consider the type of defense he did it against. They are up 75-56 with 2 minutes to go, and he has 21 points and 7 assists on 9/17 shooting. Robin Lopez has had a pretty awful game, nowhere near what he needed in a setting like this in order to lock himself into the first round. He was 3-9 from the field, finishing with 6 points and 5 rebounds in 21 foul-riddled minutes. Damion James was a key part in Texas’ win—he scored 18 points, mostly on outside shots and dunks, and did a great job pulling Stanford’s defense outside to open up the paint for his guards. He only pulled down 4 rebounds, about 6 off his average.

10:00- Kansas-Villanova has kicked off, and it doesn’t look pretty for Villanova so far. Brandon Rush continues to look good in the postseason. It’s still really early. We’re moving onto Michigan State-Memphis.

10:08- Memphis-Michigan State is on now, and Derrick Rose is off to a phenomenal start. He’s hit two terrific pull-up jumpers, one from just inside the paint and one from about 18 feet, and is moving the ball around the court nicely as well. He also took a charge in the early going. Chris Douglas-Roberts airballed a 3-pointer, and then completely missed an open mid-range jumper as well. Not a great start for him. It’s 11-6 Memphis early.


Joseph Treutlein

Kansas is off to a quick start against Villanova, up 24-10 eight minutes in, behind Brandon Rush and Russell Robinson, who combined for 21 of those 24 points. Robinson already has three spot-up three pointers and also has gotten to the basket in transition and in the halfcourt. Rush has showed off some versatility, hitting a right-handed floater in the lane by using his length, hitting a smooth pull-up three pointer, and showing off his athleticism and coordination by pulling in a perfectly thrown alley-oop pass off the glass for the score.

On the Villanova side, they seem to be having a tough time dealing with the length and athleticism of Kansas’ defense, not getting many great shots while looking a bit erratic in their offense, making some silly turnovers. If they can’t find an answer for Kansas’ superior size and athleticism, this could be an ugly game.

10:20- Derrick Rose continues to look good…he just stroked a pretty looking pull-up 3-pointer not too long ago. The few dozen NBA scouts in attendance here have to like seeing that. He’s been pretty aggressive offensively, and has 7 points already eight minutes in.

10:30- We’re starting to sound like a broken record probably, but Derrick Rose has been impressive. Michigan State is doing a very good job with their transition defense, and he’s showing great poise not forcing the issue and directing traffic in the half-court. Memphis is hitting their shots, and is smothering Michigan State on the other end of the floor. Drew Neitzel is finding it nearly impossible to get his shot off with his lack of height and athleticism, as usual, and is leaving very little doubt in anyone’s mind that he’s nothing more than a marginal NBA prospect. He’s 0-4 early. Antonio Anderson has been excellent on him defensively. Memphis is up 31-18—they might be running away early.


Joseph Treutlein

With four minutes to go in the half, Kansas is already up by 17. Villanova previously went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to seven, but Kansas quickly went on a run to pull away again, led by Mario Chalmers, who hit two three-pointers and stole the ball right out of Scotty Reynolds’ hands. He also had a nice right-handed floater in transition. Chalmers struggled a bit early, missing some shots and having the ball stolen from him on one occasion where he didn’t protect the ball, but has seemingly gotten into a groove now.

Speaking of Scotty Reynolds, aside from a quick two possessions where he hit two three-pointers coming off screens, he hasn’t had the greatest game so far, struggling to keep Villanova’s offensive flow going, making a few tough turnovers. Nova as a whole continues to struggle getting into an offensive rhythm, being prone to blocks and steals when they try to penetrate to the hoop. They started making some plays on the defensive end themselves for awhile, cutting the lead to seven, but the lead has quickly ballooned once again. They’re going to need to start hitting some spot-up shots to stay alive in this one, as driving into the Kansas defense isn’t yielding consistent results.

10:41- Memphis is just far too athletic for Michigan State to compete with, especially when they are executing like this, crashing the glass and playing such outstanding defense. It’s tough to single out any one player, but Chris Douglas-Roberts deserves mention for the way he’s slashed apart Michigan State’s zone with his dribble penetration, he’s hit a couple of pretty floaters (his trademark shot), and has also gone to work with his back to the basket. He has 8 points. Defensively he’s been fantastic as usual. Memphis is up by 21 points now, 41-20, with four minutes to go, and this game might be over soon if Michigan State doesn’t wake up.


Joseph Treutlein

Kansas is up 41-22 at the half, behind 14 points from Brandon Rush, who has really excelled in the postseason, both his conference tournament and the NCAA tournament. He may be changing the minds of some who wrote him off in the past, especially seeing how virtually all his athleticism has returned following knee surgery in the offseason. He’s shown flashes of everything here, scoring at the rim, from behind the arc, and in between, hitting a nice pull-up 18 footer going left on one occasion.

As for Kansas’ other big prospect, Darrell Arthur has been pretty invisible thus far, with just two points, one rebound, and maybe one block in the first half. The one score came on a very powerful alley-oop dunk on an inbounds pass, but Arthur just really hasn’t impacted this game, also sitting for about half of the first 20 minutes. Kansas isn’t suffering either, up 19 already.

10:50- Michigan State has absolutely been demolished here in the first half—down 30 points as they walk to the locker room, on a 15-0 run. Derrick Rose finished the half poetically with a wide-open two-handed double-pump reverse slam—which thoroughly describes the embarrassment Michigan State is suffering through. Tom Izzo is likely going to raise holy hell in the locker room at half-time, and it will be interesting to see if Michigan State comes out with any kind of pulse. Antonio Anderson deserves mention—he has 7 points, 4 assists and 0 turnovers, and has played unbelievable defense on Drew Neitzel. Neitzel is 0-4, and Raymar Morgan has only gotten a single shot off.

11:16- The second half just started and Memphis doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. Derrick Rose had two consecutive baskets to get things started for them, one a beautiful turnaround jumper in the lane, and the other a layup he got after shredding apart Michigan State’s defense on a dribble penetration. He then followed it up a few minutes later with a terrific full-court chest pass to a streaking Antonio Anderson for a wide-open layup. Any team drafting in the #2 slot that is wondering whether Rose has value there will be giving this tape a good hard look. He’s probably solidified himself at that spot with this performance here. The score is 61-29. Rose has 16 points on 7/9 shooting.


Joseph Treutlein

Eight minutes into the second half, Kansas is maintaining their lead, up 53-34, and it doesn’t look like much is going to change down the stretch. Darrell Arthur has come alive a bit here, playing strong post defense when Nova tries going inside and having two more dunks on the offensive end, one on an alley-oop and the other on a very impressive spin drive baseline. He also got to the line on an up-and-under move.

11:35- Tom Izzo’s team has made a 16-0 run to cut the lead to 18. Derrick Rose has sat out most of the second half, with some kind of minor injury. Chris Allen has done most of the damage for Michigan State. Even though Memphis has given up 16 straight points, Billy Packer for some reason stubbornly continues to call this run “basket swapping.”

11:43- Derrick Rose finally came into the game with about 9 minutes to go to try and stop the bleeding for Memphis. He has a long band-aid on his eyebrow—he suffered some kind of cut before going out last. He missed his first shot, a pull-up jumper going left, but jumped about 5 feet in the air to grab the offensive rebound and got fouled. He missed his next shot as well, but again was quicker than everyone else to the rebound, and followed it up with an easy tip-in.

12:04- Michigan State has been gnawing away at this lead for the last 15 minutes now, but Memphis has been just resilient enough to keep the score around 15-18 points in their favor. With about four minutes left, it appears that the Spartans are running out of time. They’re trying to make this into a free throw contest now. We’re about to give up ourselves and get out of the house for a bit.

Kansas-Villanova Final Report

Joseph Treutlein

Kansas missed their last nine field goals in the game, and Villanova was able to cut the lead to 12, but it was with one minute remaining, when the game was already out of reach. Kansas hit their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory, 72-57. Kansas had a balanced attack to give them the victory, with Robinson scoring 15 and Rush and Chalmers each with 14. Rush and Robinson both cooled off in the second half after very strong first halves, while Sasha Kaun played very well down the stretch, getting some easy scores inside and getting to the line by securing inside position on catching strong entry passes, some of them for alley-oops. He also pulled in eight rebounds while blocking three shots, playing strong on the interior against the undersized Wildcats. Kaun is someone we should be seeing at the Portsmouth pre-draft camp two weeks from now, though if Kansas plays in the NCAA Championship game, Kaun will only have a day’s rest to get there, so he could opt out in such a case, similarly to the way Chris Richard did last year.

On the Nova side, Scotty Reynolds underwhelmed with 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting and 0 assists against 3 turnovers. He obviously has talent as a scorer, but his point guard game still needs work, and it’d definitely be in his best interest to spend another year in college to develop his game.

Sweet 16 Day Two Final Recap:

Stock Up:

Derrick Rose (Memphis)
D.J. Augustin (Texas)
Chris Allen (Michigan State)
Stephen Curry (Davidson)
Jason Richards (Davidson)
Damion James (Texas)

Stock Neutral:

Brandon Rush (Kansas)
Darrell Arthur (Kansas)
Brook Lopez (Stanford)
Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis)

Stock Down:

Robin Lopez (Stanford)
Drew Neitzel (Michigan State)
Raymar Morgan (Michigan State)
Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)

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